a jaundiced eye: saner heads
for thursday, march 13, 1997.

Why Push Will Need A Push.

What with all the fuss about "push" these days, you'd think the entire industry had lost its mind.

I've been using Intermind's Communicator for several months now. As a technological achievement, I'd say it's just fine. The only problem is that it is one of the few real "push" applications on the market. And it's incredibly annoying.

Don't get me wrong - the ideas are sound - leverage existing technology and open standards, provide a way to notify users of new content as it is published, and provide new publishing methods that don't require the user to come wandering to your site. Allow subscription-based information retrieval. It's all very nice.

The problem is that I'm almost always in the middle of something else when I get the irritating "You have received an update to a hyperconnector" popup. And usually I answer its question ("Do you want to view it?") in the negative. And then I forget to go back.

With email, the only true "push" technology with any promise, the context is dead on. When I'm reading email, I usually have some time to spare to go out and look at whatever was announced. This, as I am sure you have guessed by now, is not "push" - it is "pull". And I like it that way.

When the context issues have been worked out, and when "push" and "pull" can work together to their best advantage, we'll really see some good applications. For now, however, I want control of what I see and when. And a popup that not only interrupts my train of thought but also steals the focus from my current active application goes against that basic concept of the user having control.

Anyone who has ever administered an intranet knows that PointCast is not true "push". It leverages HTTP, which is fundamentally incapable of pushing anything anywhere - there is simply no way for a server to throw pages at an unsuspecting victim. The user always initiates the request. With PointCast, the user is automated, configurable, and almost always runs when the user is otherwise occupied - it's a screensaver, for crying out loud. I find it astonishing that corporate executives are excited about the prospect of introducing an application into their enterprise which virtually insures that the user is not being productive. I understand the importance of timely updates to information-starved executives, but at what cost? I only hope that the same executives who are excited about PointCast understand the effect that it has on their corporate networks. And I'm sure that Netscape would love to sell every single one of them a caching proxy server.

So, tell me I'm wrong. But please use my email address so as not to interrupt whatever I'm doing at the time you decide to respond.

Steven Champeon

r e c i p r o c a t e

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© 1997-2001 Steven Champeon. All rights reserved.
All slights reversed.